Enlightenment Influences on American Ideals Essay

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By the late eighteenth century, the Enlightenment, or the Age of Reason as it was called had begun to rapidly spread across Europe. People began believing in the ideals of popular government, the centrality of economics to politics, secularism, and progress. This cultural movement was sparked by intellectuals and commonwealth thinkers such as the influential writer John Locke and the famous scientist Isaac Newton, both who emphasized the fact that man, by the use of reason, would be able to solve all of his problems-whether it be problems with the government, morals or the society. However, these ideals weren’t just limited to the European nations where they had first begun. On the other side of the world, off in the United States, …show more content…
His philosophy inspired Americans to break away from the normal European institutions that they were used to and lay a fresh foundation that would prove to be beneficial in the long run.
This fresh, new foundation came in the form a document that outlined the way the government would work. Unlike the way Europe was governed before the Enlightenment period, Americans, since they had recently liberated themselves from the British throne, wanted to establish a government in such a way that would prevent tyrannical monarchy. By this time, they still were faced with the challenge of a republican self government. But again, we see the influence of Locke’s ideas from his Treatise, where he proposed that people had the right to establish their own government for their own protection of their natural rights. As a result of this idea, the preamble to the Constitution was created. This section provided analysis as to what the whole Constitution was about; improvement on the current government (to ensure that they are just) and protection for its citizens.
Around the same time, Americans were also influenced by the works of Charles, the Baron de Montesquieu, a French political thinker. He believed that there were three types of governments; a monarchy (ruled by a king or queen), a republic (ruled by an elected leader) and a despotism (ruled by a dictator). In his book, The Spirit of Laws ,
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